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Religious liberty bill for adoption agencies clears Senate committee
Georgia's state Capitol in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press

A proposal that would allow religious adoption agencies in Georgia to refuse to work with same-sex couples has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 375 passed the committee Tuesday by a vote of 5-2 and could soon face a vote before the full Georgia Senate.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the vote was split along party lines, with five Republicans supporting the measure and two Democrats opposing it.

The sponsor of the proposal, Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, said the measure was needed to ensure that religious organizations could participate in the adoption process.

Opponents of the bill say it would effectively allow state-sponsored discrimination by adoption agencies. Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat, said the measure would discourage some parents from adopting.

“The department shall not cause any adverse action against a child-placing agency or an organization that seeks to become a child-placing agency on the basis, wholly or partly, that such child-placing agency or organization has declined to accept a referral for foster care or adoption services that do not comply with such child-placing agency’s or organization’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” the bill states.

The bill has the support of at least two of Hall County’s state delegation: Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, and Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville.

Like Ligon, Miller told The Times this month that the proposal would make clear that religious organizations are welcome to continue working in adoption in Georgia and that concerns about potential discrimination are overblown.

Dunahoo too supports the bill for its right of conscience guarantees for adoption agencies.

Like other bills touching on social issues in Georgia, the religious freedom bill has been criticized as unhelpful while Amazon considers where to open its second headquarters — a high-tech hub that could bring more than 50,000 jobs to the state.

Dunahoo has been a critic of these concerns, saying that lawmakers need to make decisions without concern about whether they’ll sit well with Amazon.

The proposal is similar to the amendment added to the overall adoption-reform bill introduced in 2017, which sank the adoption reform effort last year.

The adoption reform, which has already been signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal, came back in 2018 as a standalone bill.

Compiled by Nick Bowman and the Associated Press

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